Planning The Wedding Ceremony – A How-To Guide

 Photo via Daniel Min Photography

Photo via Daniel Min Photography

It’s no secret that planning a wedding involves the coordination of so many things - from the big items like venue and guest list to the smaller details like programs and table numbers. While all of the details are important, one item that is often left to the last minute is planning the specifics of your wedding ceremony. Although you might be thinking “What? No way is that true,” chances are that you are not fully aware of all the decisions that you need to make regarding your wedding ceremony.

Below you’ll find a complete how-to guide for planning your wedding ceremony. We understand that not all wedding ceremonies will be created equal and there may be specific religious requirements, but we wanted to share a list of general guidelines for how to personalize your wedding ceremony.

Planning Your Wedding Ceremony - A How-To Guide

First, Hire an Officiant

Rabbi, priest, pastor, justice of the peace or friend who has been ordained online, no matter your preference, the first step to planning your wedding ceremony is to decide who is going to marry you. If you have a priest, pastor or rabbi from your church or synagogue, you may want to start there. However, if you don’t have anyone in mind or are getting married out of town, you’ll need to find someone to do the honors. Sites such as Borrowed and Blue and Thumbtack, or Richmond Weddings locally, provide listings of wedding officiants.

Second, Meet with the Officiant to Discuss Ceremony Options

Each faith and officiant conducts marriage ceremonies differently, although many of the basic components remain the same. Schedule a meeting with your officiant to have them talk you through the basic marriage ceremony that they perform. During this meeting and discussion, they will share the various things you can do to personalize the ceremony including music selection, adding a reading, special ceremonies, prayers, etc. as well as the order of events within the ceremony.

Third, Make Your Music Selections

While most couples think about their first dance song, there are MANY more songs to select for your wedding ceremony than you might think. Music can play a big part to set the tone for the type of ceremony you wish to have, from traditional to contemporary. Here’s a quick list of the songs you may need to select:

  • Prelude, light, ambient music that is played while guests are being seated and waiting for the ceremony to begin.

  • Processional, music that is played to accompany the entrance of family, groom & groomsmen, bridal party and the bride. While it is ok for one song to be played for everyone, it is not uncommon to have a different song for each group. However, the most common is to have a single song for the seating of the mothers, entrance of the groom and bridal party, with a different song for the bride’s grand entrance.

  • Recessional, music played at the end of the ceremony while you make your exit together

In addition to the above song selections, some couples elect to have a musical selection performed live during the ceremony as well. It's really up to you to choose the music that best fits your style for your wedding! 

Next, Choose Your Vows

While mostly all marriage ceremonies are pretty standard overall, some officiants give you the opportunity to choose which version of the marriage ceremony you want - formal, non-denominational, etc. And in some cases, you may elect to exchange your own personal vows. By working closely with your pastor, priest or officiant, you’ll be able to make the best choice for your ceremony that fits with your beliefs.

Then, Determine The Order of the Ceremony

This is an important step as it creates the schedule for the ceremony to ensure that everyone goes as planned. This is also where you choose if you’ll have a reading of a special verse or passage that is particularly meaningful to you both. In addition, a reading is a great way to involve a loved one that you have a special relationship with that you’d like to involve in the ceremony. You’ll want the order of ceremony determined a few weeks ahead of your wedding, especially if you are planning on printing physical programs to be distributed to guests. No matter if your ceremony is civil or religious, it will most likely follow the following order of events (with other items inserted in as necessary):

  • Processional
  • Officiant’s Opening Remarks
  • The Charge to the Couple
  • Exchange of Vows
  • Ring Exchange
  • The Pronouncement of Marriage
  • The Kiss
  • Closing Remarks
  • Recessional

Finally, Enjoy The Moment

One thing that most people don’t tell you is that the ceremony is one of the best parts of your wedding day. If you don’t decide to do a first look, for most couples, it is the first time you’ll see your significant other on the day of the wedding. While the rest of the wedding will go by in a blur, take the time to savor and enjoy the moment where you and your significant become husband and wife. Because after all, isn’t that what the day is about anyway?


Have any other advice or tips that we missed that would be helpful for planning a wedding ceremony? We’d love it if you shared them in the comments below!